In the Lost and Found

By Grace Verne Silver

Being a criminal lawyer most of my associates and my best friends are criminals. I have to live, and if it weren't for the crime wave I wouldn't live so well. They live off the honest men and I live off of them.

Pete Rosefeld wasn't exactly a criminal, -- he merely got other people's money under false pretenses. Only, instead of getting part of it that way, as lots of respectable citizens do, he got it all in devious ways. That man worked harder to keep from working than anyone I ever had for a client. Naturally, I worked for him. So I was not unduly surprised to learn that I was wanted at the county jail. They ought to put in some offices down there for us lawyers, so we'd be handier to our business.

I found that Pete was, as usual, held for fraud. He was more than unusually angry for a man who accepts an arrest as just a part of his day's work.

"Look here, this gag is legal, lawful, honest as a church. Yet here I am! They can't put me in jail for this!"

"You're here, aren't you? What's the racket this time?" I asked him. He pulled out an advertisement clipped from the Los and Found column and handed it to me. It read:

"Found, on Fourth St., Sat. eve ring -- apparently diamond. Owner pay for adv. Box 000, News."

"Now," insisted my client, "that advertisement is perfectly legal. Notice it does not say 'diamond,' but 'apparently.' It's all up to the sucker whether he wants to take the bait. I don't misrepresent anything. I don't even use the U.S. mails."

"But where is the profit?"

He explained with the pride of the professional.

"It pays for a crook to be as honest as he can, for honest men are naturally crooks themselves and they like to put something over on the other fellow in a nice, honest way. I try to cater to that class of suckers.

"It works like this: I get from fifty answers up to an ad like that, all from honest, respectable men and women, and all of them lost a diamond ring on Fourth St. Must have been raining rings. Only once in a thousand times did any of them actually have a diamond ring to lose, but they are honest and they want something for nothing, just like I do.

"I wait till I get all the answers -- maybe three or four days. Then I put a box of assorted phony rings in my inside pocket, -- the kind that cost a dollar a dozen, but shine like anything for a few days. I take a lady's or gent's ring (according to my customer) and carefully wrap it in a nice silk handkerchief. When they invite me in the house, as they always do. (That's so the neighbors won't see.) I manage to show the ring, kinda carelessly, so they'll know how to identify it. They tell me how it was a keepsake, or an engagement ring. I say, to be sure, and in case there's trouble later:

"'Are you sure it's your ring?'

"You bet they are sure -- sure they're getting a fifty dollar ring for five dollars of less. Mostly they hand me a five and tell me to keep the change. Sometimes I get only the ad money, but I get it fifty times over. I try to clean up the whole list the same day, and move to the next town. There's not likely to be a kick. An honest man or woman, after identifying a ring as his or hers, don't feel like squawking. Sometimes they fork over a twenty. I'd never be able to get along if the honest folks wasn't crooked.

"How come you got caught, if it's so legal and safe," I asked.

"One of last season's suckers moved to this town and when he saw the ad framed me. Still, he can't make it stick, can he?"

"You should know that the police have illegal ways of doing legal acts," I told him in my best professional manner. "just as you have 'legal' ways of doing illegal ones. Better plead guilty and pay a fine. I'll fix it so it won't cost you much. Fifty for the fine, maybe; and you'll come up to my office and hand over another fifty to me afterwards. A man can be too sure of himself sometimes," I concluded.

That's my "idea of easy money," -- living off the man who lives off the suckers.


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